A bird's eye view of display advertising

What is Display Advertising?

Display Advertising is perhaps the oldest form of online advertising. Simply put, its nothing but the ads - banner ad, image based ads that you see often. Presently, it extends to other forms such as rich media. Thus unlike a text based ad, these improve both the attractiveness and interaction capabilities of an ad.First image based ad was from AT&T that appeared in Wired magazine website in 1994. Since then, online display advertising has grown a lot. Here is a good video from IAB on the evolution of display advertising.

If you are in the online advertising field, I am sure you would have come across at least once the lumascapes. If you look at the latest Display landscape lumascape, you can how evolved the ecosystem has become with hundreds of niche players and complex offerings. From a core display advertising vendor perspective (aka what you need to know if you are an SMB), is that there are essentially four or five platforms that you need to consider to do display advertising - Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If you become more savvy, you can consider other options like re targeting, trading desks and the buzzword - programmatic buying!
Capabilities such as contextual targeting and re-targeting enables an online marketer to reach the right target audience with the help of display advertising. Plethora of customized targeting strategies can be included in marketing campaigns with the help of vanilla products such as Google Adwords or Facebook advertising. Irrespective of which platform you choose, there are a number of properties that the vendor use for enabling the contextual advertising (like Google - Display Network, Youtube, Gmail and so on; Microsoft - Atlas, Bing, Outlook, Maps, Yahoo mail and so on).Optimization is the key to running an effective display advertising campaign. David Booth & Corey Koberg, in their book - Display Advertising An Hour A Day, suggests the following optimization strategy -

  1. Based on few campaign runs, determine the key sites that are performing well
  2. Wherever possible, consider managed placements to manually bid for more inventory on the key sites and specifically exclude sites that aren't performing.
  3. Keep an eye on the visitor behavior to re-target those visitors with a high chance of conversion.
  4. Study the demographics of conversions for fine tuning

Having said this, display advertising has its own challenges - that many of us don't click a banner ad. So how can an online marketer justify her budget request for display advertising? In my opinion, the question one needs to ask is what's the objective of your display advertising campaigns - is it reach, branding, retargeting - go for it! Are you looking for a more specific advertising, text based search advertising could be enough.A thumb rule often used is - display advertising is more suitable for generating and interest and search advertising for getting into a consumer's consideration set. Proponents of display advertising argues that it is not the clicks an online marketer should worry about while considering display advertising; but the impressions or reach or how many views the banner ad. But again the display advertising industry is plagued with challenges like bots - that mimic web traffic to a web site. This defeats the purpose of reaching to real folks for branding/reach etc. A solution called Viewability or viewable impressions is in making which expected to overcome some of the challenges of fraudulent display advertising.We will look in detail about viewability in a later post.

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